Saturday, June 13, 2015

German Chocolate Fudge Bites

So, last month I was asked to talk a little about healthy eating to the women in my church. I was honored and flattered, of course, but if you've ever looked at the countless sweets on my blog than you know I'm not a complete health nut. It is true, however, that over the last year or so I have been steering my family onto a journey of better health. This includes only eating "real" food (no weird chemicals or preservatives that I can't find in a normal household kitchen), and trying to cut out highly processed foods (like white flour and most sugars). Most people call this "clean eating." We do have occasional treats with the "bad stuff" (white flour/sugar) but we try to stay away from those ingredients in our day to day meals and snacks. Becuase they aren't completely "bad" they are just empty calories without any benefits.
  The whole family has taken to this way of life pretty well, and the kids are even checking the ingredients lists on packages before they ask me for anything in the grocery store! (Win!) Watching the movie Fed Up with them was all it took for them to be on the no sugar band wagon with me. (Even if we take occasional hops off the wagon and jump back on, it's much better than the way we were previously eating.) If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it.
   While on my journey to discovering better health and "real" food I was in desperate need to find substitutes for my chocolate desserts that I love so much. I actually made my own chocolate (another story for another day), and I am finding new ways to get that chocolate flavor without using the factory produced chocolate chips and bars that are so near and dear to my heart. These German Chocolate Fudge Bites are one of those ways.
   This recipe was shared with me by a friend, Chelsi, that was heading up a clean eating challenge. I did the challenge, tried this recipe and I fell in love with it. My kids call them "chocolate balls" and have no idea that they have NO processed sugar in them at all. These treats are only sweetened with dates! They are raw, gluten free, and can easily be made nut free if needed. I knew this was going to be the dessert that I shared with the ladies at church. (If you're curious, these are the other 4 recipes I shared with the group.) You should definitely try them, because they are delicious, not because they are healthy. That's just a bonus!

This is how it starts: It's all made in the food processor. You'll need a package of Majule dates. I multiplied the recipe by 5 for the church group, so when you make yours it won't be as many ingredients. But it will be the same ingredients as what's in the picture.
These dates were HUGE, so a normal recipe would only need 3 of these giant guys, or 6 of the normal size. (3/4 cup)

Don't forget to take the pit out of the dates! Just break the date in half. See the pit inside?

Then take the pit out. The pit is discarded and the rest of the date goes into the food processor.

For a single recipe you will need 3/4 cup of pitted dates. But, like I mentioned before, I multiplied the recipe by 5 so I have a lot more here.

I like to blend the dates up a bit, just to make more room in the food processor, but this step isn't really necessary.

Then all the other ingredients are added: Unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Hershey's Special Dark), or you could use raw cocao powder if desired.

A little salt,

pure vanilla extract,


and pecans go into the bowl of the food processor with the dates.

Just turn the sucker on and let it go. When the mixture comes together it's done!

You can make your fudge bites as big or as small as you would like, but I find that a rounded teaspoon full is perfect for us.

Just scoop them, and roll them in your hand.

It's a messy job, so beware! This was after about 40 balls. :)

When all the balls are rolled out, then just store them in an airtight container. I usually put them in a zip-top sandwich bag, but since I was making so many I opted to put them into a glass Pyrex container with a lid.
When it was time to serve it to the ladies I put each one into a mini muffin liner. They were adorable. (I regret not taking a picture.)
   I hope you enjoy them and they inspire you to find healthier alternatives to your every day treats/snacks. :)

Here's the recipe:
from Chocolate Covered Katie

German Chocolate Fudge Bites

3/4 cup pitted dates 
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/16 tsp salt
2 tbsp cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder)
2 tbsp shredded coconut (sweetened or not is your choice)
1/3 cup raw pecans

*If you really need more chocolate, you can add some chocolate chips, but I don't.
Blend all ingredients in a food processor, until the mixture comes together in a ball. Scoop and roll into desired sized balls. Store in an airtight container

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Whole Wheat Pita Bread (With Crock-pot Chicken, Garlic Tahini Sauce and Lemon Dill Yogurt Sauce)

So about a month ago, I participated in a clean eating challenge. Part of eating clean is to only eat "whole" ingredients. That means nothing that is highly processed, and definitely no white flour or refined sugar. It was during this challenge that one of the participants shared a recipe for whole wheat pita bread. Since whole wheat flour is perfectly acceptable while eating clean, it was a great recipe to share. I had never made pita bread before, but I was anxious to try my hand at it. I made the recipe she posted and it was very salty, and a little dry tasting. So, with a little tweaking I came up with a recipe that I am happy with.
   About a week ago I was asked to talk to the ladies of out church about healthy eating. I gave them a few general healthy eating rules to live by, and talked about some foods to consider adding into their every day diets. At the end I was going to talk about all the yummy food that I had brought for them to sample, but I ended up running out of time so I basically just said: here you go. I served a basic crock-pot chicken recipe (that can be used in any number of healthy eating recipes), and had all the fixings to eat it as a pita sandwich. Of course, I made the whole wheat pita bread and had it for everyone to use. Everything was well received, and I got numerous requests for the recipes. I had hard copies for the people in attendance, but I thought that I would post them on my blog as well, so that everyone who wanted the recipes could have them. (I will be posting the chicken and sauce recipes at the end of this post, and then later I will be posting the German Chocolate Fudge bites that I served as well.)
   Unfortunately, there are no step by step pictures for the pita bread, but the recipe and directions should serve you well. If you have any questions/comments just let me know and I will help you out as always. :)
   I consider pita bread to be one of those recipes that is like culinary magic. You roll out the dough and put it in the oven (sure that there is no way it will puff and turn out like it should) and then magically it does. The dough rounds puff up like little pillows and turn out wonderfully. I hope you enjoy making (and eating) them as well!

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

2 cups warm water (110F-115F)
4 tsp dry yeast (I like rapid rise/instant yeast)
1 tsp honey (optional)
1 ¼ tsp salt
3 ½ -4 cups whole wheat flour (all purpose or bread flour)
½ cup ground flax seed meal (I use Bob's Mill Organic Golden Flaxseed Meal)

Combine water, yeast and honey into a bowl and set aside to get foamy. (5 minutes). Whisk in the ground flax seed, 1 ½ cups of the flour, and the salt until smooth. Add 2 cups more flour and knead until a smooth, slightly sticky, dough forms. (Use all 4 cups if the dough is too sticky.) Put in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour). Roll out dough and divide into 11 balls. Let sit for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 500F while the dough is resting. After resting, roll each dough ball out into circles (6 -8 inches) with as few strokes as possible, making sure NOT to roll the edges flat. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake on the bottom rack for 5-6 minutes, until puffed and slightly browned. When cool, cut in half and fill with desired ingredients.

I like to eat the pita bread with this crock-pot chicken, cucumber, lettuce, tomato and both the garlic tahini sauce and the lemon dill yogurt sauce. (recipes follow)

Crock-pot Chicken

3 lbs boneless skinless chicken (breasts or thighs)
½ small onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, grated
1 ½ cups greens, finely diced (I like to use a mixture of baby spinach, baby kale, and baby           chard, labeled as "power greens" at the grocery store. Measure after cutting, it's about 4 cups before cutting)
1 tsp whole dry thyme
½ tsp ground dry rosemary
1 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
Juice of ½ lemon (about 2 Tbsp, plus more to taste)

Put all ingredients into the slow cooker. Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 4-5 hours. Cut or shred the chicken and use in any recipe. Taste and add more salt and/or lemon juice if desired.

Garlic Tahini Sauce

¼ cup water
½ cup tahini
3 tsp minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
¼ tsp ground cumin
Juice of ½ lemon (about 2 tbsp)
Salt and pepper

Stir all ingredients together until smooth. All ingredients are to taste. 

Lemon Dill Yogurt Sauce

½ cup plain Greek yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 ½ tsp dry dill (can use mint if you prefer)
1 tsp minced garlic (about 1 clove)
¼ cup grated cucumber (without juice)
Salt and pepper

Stir all ingredients together until smooth. All ingredients are to taste.

Caprese Salad

Heading into the warmer months, this is a salad that my family enjoys all summer long. It's light, refreshing, and is a cinch to make. There's not one true, hard and fast recipe to use for Caprese salad. The basics are tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. What really makes this salad, though, is making sure to use the BEST ingredients possible. It really does make all the difference. I recently had a caprese salad at a local restaurant, and I was sorely dissapointed. So, I came home and made my own which is almost always better (and cheaper!)

Isn't this salad so pretty? It's impressive enough to serve to company, but easy enough to have on a regular week night with the family. I've made it with a ball of fresh mozzarella (pictured), but I've also made it with the little round balls of mozzarella (bocconcini), and not cut them at all. Both ways are delicious!

Here's my "recipe"

Caprese Salad

3-4 large heirloom tomatoes (organic if you can)
1 pound fresh mozzarella
1 small bunch of fresh basil
extra virgin olive oil
freshly cracked black pepper
aged balsamic vinegar

Cut the tomatoes and the cheese into 1/4 inch slices. Arange them on a plate, alternating tomatoes and cheese as you like. Tear or cut the basil into small pieces and sprinkle on top. Drizzle on a little olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste.